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Thread: Rear Axle - To swap or not...

  1. #1
    Sharpest-Tool joberrick's Avatar
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    Rear Axle - To swap or not...

    My current rear axle set up is the original Dana 44 tapered axles and 3.54 gears with 11" drum brakes on a 63 wagon.

    Had decided to swap out for a Scout II axle with the stronger flanged axles but am now looking at Herm's full floating kit for the original axle. I know its the more expensive route, but the idea that I can keep the original axle is appealing if the end result is the same--a stronger and safer axle.

    Herm's kit replaces the tapered axles with a spindle set up with much stronger axle shafts. In addition to stronger axle shafts, the weight of the vehicle is no longer carried by the axle shaft and instead is carried by the spindle. Not only should this be a stronger set up, the fact that the wheel doesn't fall off if an axle shaft does break, is a much better scenario, especially at highway speeds... don't ask why I know ;-)

    I'd be interested to hear what others think about this, and if anyone has experience with this kit, would love to hear how it has worked out.
    62 Wagon 4x4 230 - resto in progress / 60 Wagon 4x4 226
    92 YJ, 01 TJ, 90 XJ, 12 MB ML500

  2. #2
    Bigger Hammer
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    I had a 1970 CJ5 that a rear axel bearing spun in the housing , this caused the new bearing to be loose in the housing. I installed a floating rear axel kit built by Smittybuilt I believe this is the same kit. It bolted right up and worked well. It also had the additional benefit of allowing me to install locking rear hubs . Whenever I towed my jeep I would disengage the rear hubs which helped out with the towing.

    Nick.

  3. #3
    Precision-Fit elminero67's Avatar
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    That has always been my dream setup for a moderately built Willys-I was hoping to do that swap on mine but found a Dana 60 the correct size with 5 on 5.5. Cool, but a full floating Dana 44 is cooler...

  4. #4
    Gear Grinder
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    Gary
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    I am wanting "modern" under my '62 wagon body. My project was shelved for some years. I was last considering a Chevy Colorado. Please suggest known best fits.

    Thank you

  5. #5
    Sharpest-Tool joberrick's Avatar
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    Thanks for the feedback everyone. I'll follow up the thread later with my experience if I go ahead with this route.
    62 Wagon 4x4 230 - resto in progress / 60 Wagon 4x4 226
    92 YJ, 01 TJ, 90 XJ, 12 MB ML500

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  7. #6
    Precision-Fit ARLEN's Avatar
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    When swapping out the whole rear axel you have to consider the costs of other things also when comparing the cost of improving your original. I'm putting a Ford 9" in my 48. I'm keeping my 1&3/4" rear leaf springs and the axel tubes on the 65 Thunderbird 9" are 3". I will have to buy or have made and welded in place , pads that will fit the Willys Leaf Springs and the larger Ford 9" tubes. So not only is there a cost in setting up the new rear at the right angle, there are fabrication costs to have the right pads and shocks.

  8. #7
    Precision-Fit martisan's Avatar
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    How about having the stock axles magnafluxed and running them? With good parts the wheels will never ever come off on the freeway. Of course the full-floater would still be cooler.

  9. #8
    Well-Oiled
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    Greg
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    I agree with Martin The problems with the tapered axle 44 are mostly 1.) Grease your axle bearings regularly or else. 2.) Don't be afraid to tighten up your axle hub nuts a lot and use the cotter pin. 3.) Put your keyway in properly or you WILL split your hub. 4.) Tighten your lugnuts to spec. 5.) Again, as Martin said, start with good parts first. That is important, as there is, in truth, no telling just what a previous so called mechanic did to your baby. The badly done things I have seen over 45 years are incredible. FULL DISCLOSURE ALERT I have been guilty of a few boners myself and admit it.

    Having said that, The full floating axle kit should be awesome as long as there is a way for the bearings to lubricate themselves. Factory full floating rears lube themselves with the diff housing gear oil. i've never seen this kit but heard about it. 3/4 ton pickups no longer have full float rears anymore, I guess as a cost cutting measure, and as an exercise of wimping out pickups too. There is a very good reason why real trucks have full floating rear axles. They NEED them. Willys wagons don't, but that would be cool nonetheless. diggerG

  10. #9
    Sharpest-Tool joberrick's Avatar
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    I think Arlen makes some great points regarding swaps. Any time you're replacing something with another design, fabrication comes into play and some folks are better suited (tools and/or skills) to do such. I know I can figure out a swap and make it work, but I always prefer to keep things as original as I can yet meet the needs of how I'd like to use the vehicle. So there's that element in my head.

    To Martin's point about keeping the original axles and making sure they're sound (magnaflux), and Greg's points of proper installation and maintenance, for maximum performance, I don't disagree generally, especially behind stock engine configurations and tire/wheel combos. They served me pretty well for many years, even off-roaded them pretty aggressively with only a few issues, but behind the power of a mild small block and bigger tires, I broke 3 over a couple of years. Two of those occurred at slow speeds so no big deal, but 1 of them came apart at highway speed so I lost the wheel with drum while going 65 miles an hour... I was able to coast to a stop without too much trouble (all though the sparks created a fire in the bar pit along the highway... ) but the worst part was the tire/wheel/drum assembly that went flying by me... had it crossed the highway and hit an oncoming car, it would have been disastrous... so, the honest truth is that I was never really comfortable with the axles from that point forward... now maybe I had bad replacement axles (I never had them magnafluxed) but I'm sure I had them installed properly to spec, always kept them lubricated properly and tightened, and never drove crazy hard on them.

    So, that has a lot to do with my quest for something stronger... now, since my post, I've reached out to Herm and have learned that he does not have kits for the wagon width... he has kits for CJs... so the axle shafts are probably not the right length... but he's offered to help me by providing spline and seal surface measurements so I can figure out the lengths I would need. I'll then see if I can find someone here in So Cal that can manufacturer them to spec for a reasonable price... The rest of his kit will work just fine...

    If anyone has a referral to a good machine shop capable of such, let me know. I'm sure I can find someone here in the area but I always prefer referrals... as I learn more and figure this out, I'll post more once I have more info.

    Thanks everyone!

    John
    62 Wagon 4x4 230 - resto in progress / 60 Wagon 4x4 226
    92 YJ, 01 TJ, 90 XJ, 12 MB ML500

  11. #10
    Precision-Fit mikec4193's Avatar
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